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Bad blood over blood

Published: 6:41PM Monday September 07, 2009 Source: ONE News

GPs and their patients have become the meat in the sandwich of the fight over Auckland's new laboratory service.

Diagnostic Medlab lost the lucrative Auckland Hospital laboratory contracts to Labtests and chief executive Arthur Morris says "it's not the same service".

But the chief executive of the other Aussie lab which won the contract, Ulf Lindskog from Labtests, says the new service is "really good".

The issue has split the Auckland medical community. GP Carmel Built says she is "very concerned that patient safety is at risk" but GP David Jansen told ONE News it's "clearly time to move on".

The lucrative contract for Labtests will see the company get $70 million per year and process about 10,000 tests a day. It's Mt Wellington lab has the world's latest high-tech equipment.

Labtests has 56 collection centres, fewer than before, but more staff to run them and longer opening hours.

"The overall improvement in the service will be significant for clinicians and patients," says Lindskog.

The district health board awarded Labtests the contract back in 2006. The company's bid came in $10 million a year cheaper than the incumbent, Diagnostic Medlab or DML.

DML had the decision overturned in the high court but the Court of Appeal awarded it back to Labtests .

The Supreme Court then refused Diagnostic Medlab permission to appeal the Court of Appeal decision.

Morris says if they have to move on they will but he says they won't go quietly and "let an inferior service be forced on the people of Auckland".

The row has led to claims of scaremongering, intimidation and negative publicity. Some GPs are welcoming the change but others say the Auckland lab service was the one stellar performer in the heath system they could rely upon and they are questioning why the DHB has stepped in and tampered with it.

DML says since Labtests started up three weeks ago, GPs have complained of long patient waits, IT mix-ups and administrative glitches.

Built says really abnormal tests are not coming back onto their computers for up to three days. "There is going to be a serious incident, it's not a maybe, there will be, the matter is when."

However, Jansen is really happy with the new service and says there has been plenty of email contact and "the right sort of information at the right time".

Labtests admits there have been teething problems but Lindskog says they are "working through them very diligently to address any issues that are real and that we need to address".

And the DHB is promising the problems are being fixed.

"This is a programme which is a bit lumpy but it's going to deliver the results," says Auckland chairman Pat Snedden.

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